Do you have writers’ block? Did you choose a topic or idea to develop, but now you find yourself stuck? Try free writing! This exercise is used by writers to gather their thoughts and ideas before they begin a document, with the result being an endless, non-punctuated, and free-flowing paragraph that’ll be immensely helpful in the preliminary writing process.
Set a timer or use the clock on your computer screen. Give yourself 5 to 10 minutes to write continuously. This is so you get going and write quickly. Spend the time writing, not worrying about the time.
Select a topic for your free writing. If you’ve chosen to do focused free writing, write this topic at the top of your page. If you just wish to write without a topic, go ahead without one. You may be surprised at what you write even on days when you begin with “I can’t think of anything to write here.”
Start your timer.
Write down whatever comes to mind. It can be in relation to your topic if you have one or if you are doing unfocused free writing because you are trying to come up with an idea or topic, just write down every random thought that crosses your mind as quickly as possible.
Continue writing until the designated time has run out. Do not stop until that point.
- Do not pay attention to grammar or typos.
- If there are any incomplete sentences or misspelled words, don’t worry. Just keep going.
- If you run into a dead end or draw a blank, keep writing the same word or phrase over and over again until something else pops into your mind. One idea is to take a quick glance around the room and choose one object to describe.
- When the time has run out, look over what you have written and circle or underline ideas that you like or that you think that might be useful for your project.
Group your marked ideas and phrases and decide where they lead you in your writing process.
Begin your rough draft. If you have enough to start your paper or document, then begin working on your rough draft. If you do not have enough ideas, free write for another session, or try another informal invention technique such as brainstorming or mind mapping Presupposition.
- A good way to avoid wanting to edit free writing is to turn off your computer screen so that you cannot see the words that are being typed.
- In Microsoft Word, another way to avoid editing typos is to turn off the proofing (red underlines). For MW 2007 users, click the circle that glows yellow at the top left corner when you mouse over it. A list will drop out. Click “Word Options” at the bottom right of the list; a window will pop open. At the list on the left hand side, click “Proofing”. There will be 3 sections. In the 2nd section, unchecked all the ticks in the boxes, and hit “OK”. Now, even if a mistake is made, there will not be red underlines. To get proofing back, just repeat the process, but re-check the ticks in the boxes.
- If possible, use a simple text program, like Wordpad in Windows, or TextEdit in Mac. They are easier to use than Microsoft Word or Mac Pages. Editing the font or messing with italics (unless you know the keyboard shortcuts) can distract you from the real reason you are there: to write.
- Some writers find that the free writing process works better if they use a notebook and pen, even if they use a computer for their other writing. Keeping a notebook just for free writes helps to keep them together so you can access them later. Try to use a smooth writing pen or mechanical pencil so you don’t have to worry about your pen drying out or your pencil getting blunt. Dating your writes will help to find them later, too.
- If you do begin with an idea or prompt, never feel that you must stick to the original topic in a free write. Feel free to follow tangential or random associations.
- Free writing as a group process can be especially rewarding and expanding.
- Internet searches on “free writing prompts” or “timed-writing prompts” will lead to many ideas for free write topics.
- A countdown timer with an alarm may be better than just a clock as it will save you from constantly looking at it.
- Listen to music to help yourself relax. It can be any kind of music – whatever you enjoy, really.
- If you are having a hard time at the start then use your senses, simply write what you are feeling directly through your senses: Is it hot or cold or maybe you are hungry or tired, whatever you are feeling just write it and then the rest will come to you.
- Try to write something—anything!—every day.
- Read a lot!
- Read different genres of books; not just what you plan on writing about.
- If you are absolutely stuck, scribble ‘I don’t know what to write’ over and over again. Eventually your underworked mind will get bored of this and come up with something.
- Get support from your family and friends.
- Don’t worry. No one has ever been permanently blocked from writing. In fact, the best writing comes out of that!
- Free writing is not guaranteed to work for everyone, but it can help to break even the toughest writer’s block.